WESTFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- COVID-19 restrictions have brought many changes. Businesses have been forced to adjust with the times and that includes changing the way driving school is conducted.

Learning the rules of the road looks different for drivers this year.

Pete Ronchi, a driving instructor and teacher at Reasonable Driving in Westfield said the Registry of Motor Vehicles came up with new regulations for instructors and student drivers due to COVID-19

“There are masks to be worn by the driver and instructor at all times,” he said. “They eliminated anybody from observing hours which meant normally there would be another kid in the car but now it is down to two people.”

Instructors and teachers are taking multiple safety precautions between lessons and tests.

“When we drive a person, we sanitize both driver and passenger seats and those are probably the biggest changes we have made,” he said.

But they are also faced with challenges of their own.

“Trying to communicate while wearing a mask because sometimes the directions and things you ask the kids to do aren’t heard clearly so it’s difficult,” he said.

Drivers are learning virtually rather than coming to class, which is difficult for a hands-on teacher like Ronchi.

“Wednesdays was always what we call driving under the influence days, Bill was good enough to purchase distracting driving goggles we would put them through field sobriety tests,” he said.

But another challenge students are faced with is not having their instructor in the car during their test.

“Without a friendly face in the car, they are absolutely paranoid, most of them,” he said. “That’s the biggest question we get is how come you can’t sit in the car with us.”

Ronchi said although these restrictions are in place, they are busy with new student drivers.

“These kids are backed up three or four months from the time they were eligible to get their permits and attend school, which we couldn't do,” he said.

With all these restrictions from COVID-19, Ronchi feels student drivers are more eager to learn and gain some freedom.

“We have another class coming up starting next Monday, and I’m sure we will have a large amount of students then,” he said.

Copyright 2020 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation).  All rights reserved.

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